HARDING, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Five people and a dog died Tuesday morning when the small plane they were aboard crashed near Morristown Airport, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Some witnesses reported seeing the plane spiraling out of control as it crashed to the ground and new questions about icing possibly causing the accident have arisen.
The single-engine, high-performance six-seater — a Socata TBM-700 — was utterly destroyed around 10 a.m. near exits 33 and 35. The plane crashed 14 minutes into the doomed flight from Teterboro Airport en route to DeKalb Peachtree Airport near Atlanta.
1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg With More From NTSB Officials
Pilot Jeffrey Buckalew, his wife, Corinne, and their two children, Jackson and Meriwether, were killed along with Buckalew’s business partner Rakesh Chawla, 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reported. Both Buckalew and Chawla were managing directors of the New York investment firm Greenhilland Co.
Photos: I-287 Plane Crash
Chawla was a married man on the fast track to success and wealth. His family is now gathering to help his wife prepare a funeral, CBS 2’s Lou Young reported.
“The firm is in deep mourning over the tragic and untimely death of two of its esteemed colleagues and members of Jeff’s family. They will be sorely missed and our sympathies go out to their families and friends,” Greenhill and Co. said in a statement.
The plane is registered to Cool Stream LLC, which is headquartered on the Upper East Side in Manhattan. Buckalew, 45, is the owner of that company. Buckalew is a pilot and was known to fly a Socata TBM-700.
Bob Gretz, Senior Investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, said Tuesday was the first day of what will likely be up to a year-long investigation, so all of the information is preliminary.
Gretz said that during the flight there was a discussion between the pilot and controllers about locations of icing conditions.
Air-Traffic Control Tape 1 (credit: LiveATC.net)
“Icing was the subject of the conversation, but I don’t know further details as to if he was asking where it was or if he was in some,” he said.
Air-Traffic Control Tape 2 (credit: LiveATC.net)
NTSB investigators are admittedly puzzled by the transmissions, saying the plane broke apart before the icing question was resolved and that there was no hint of an emergency.
Aviation expert JP Tristani said icing could most certainly down a plane, but he said the larger issue is how the pilot reacted at the very start of that deadly spin.
“Instead of just maybe a flat spin, wrong type of controls could bring that plane into a nosedown, which they said, and it starts spinning, or it could even flip over and do an inverted spin, which — goodbye,” he told CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis.
Gretz also said there was no black box aboard the plane, but there was a GPS system.
The plane initially impacted on the southbound side of Route 287, went through a median area and parts of the debris ended up on the northbound side, Gretz said. Witnesses saw the plane begin to break up and lose a section before it plunged to the ground in an uncontrolled spin. Luckily, no one on the ground was injured, but a pickup truck just missed the plane, Gretz said.
“Definitely at least a piece of the plane that had separated that was flipping … it came down after the initial impact. I was in shock,” one witness told reporters, including CBS 2’s Christine Sloan.
Debris was strewn across many lanes along both sides of 287, bringing traffic to a near standstill. Tuesday afternoon, New Jersey State Police said that three southbound lanes and two northbound lanes of the interstate were open once again.
An eyewitness to the crash told WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman that at first the plane appeared to be doing tricks in the air when a wing came off.
Witnesses and state police told 1010 WINS’ Sandberg the plane appeared to break up in mid-air. A wing landed in a tree and the propeller was found in the woods. Debris was found a half-mile from the site of the crash.
WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman With Witnesses To The Crash
1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg speaks with witnesses
The doorman at Buckalew’s building told CBS 2 he and his family had left for vacation down South that morning in a trip that was to combine business and fun. Neighbors on the Upper East Side also expressed sorrow and condolences about the tragedy.
“This is terrible, terrible news,” Daniel Nadler said. “It’s a tragedy.”
“Our heartfelt condolences to the whole family that was left behind,” Serga Nadler said.
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